Although Flanders is being harder hit than Wallonia by the coronavirus, most of the European support for Belgium flows to the south of the country, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon (N-VA) complained as the Flemish and Walloon governments installed further measures to tackle the crisis.
According to Jambon, this is due to the “mechanics” of the fund distribution. “Once again, European emergency money is passed by Flanders because the chosen mechanism ensures that the good student of the class is punished,” he said, speaking to a reduced Flemish parliament chamber.
In recent years, Wallonia has suffered from high unemployment and has a significantly lower GDP per capita than Flanders, which accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP. when it comes to distribution of EU funds, the economic disparities have also caused regional dissent in the past, the latest with the EU’S Just Transition Fund.
To combat the coronavirus fallout, the EU has set up a special fund, where the amount of 37 million is dedicated for Belgium. Of this amount, two thirds will go to Wallonia with €16 million, Flanders will receive €6.5 million, the Brussels Region €4.3 million and €9.6 million are dedicated to the French Community. The regional allocation is calculated through a key similar to those used for the EU’s usual funds.
Jambon said he will raise the matter with the European Commission. “I am indeed going to make a démarche to the European Commission,” he replied to a question from Vlaams Belang group leader Chris Janssens.
Currently, there are around 400,000 people who have applied for temporary unemployment benefit due to the coronavirus crisis, according to figures from the Belgian federal government. The numbers are expected to rise sharply in the next few weeks.
In Flanders, the government has taken additional financial measures to mitigate the crisis. Additionally to counter-strategies taken on federal level, the Flemish government has introduced a series of measures to tackle the fallout of the coronavirus crisis.
It will pay the water, gas and electricity bills for everyone who is “technically unemployed”, earmarking €20 million for the measure and include the guarantee for a bridging loan and the incentive bonus for part-time work.
“The aim is to take care of those bills for a month, to give the people a little peace of mind,” said Jambon.
As many companies had to stop their activities, the nuisance premium from the Flemish government, amounting to €4,000 for the first 3 weeks, and €160 per day thereafter, has been extended to them. 31,000 entrepreneurs have already applied for the financial measures. For more, you can find a list here.
Meanwhile, Wallonia’s government also decided to compensate businesses affected by the lockdown. The region aims to give €5,000 to each business forced to close. The sectors concerned are hotels, guest houses, restaurants, cafes, bars, travel and booking agencies, retailers and service providers.
(Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)